UV Rays Can Cause Harm to Eyes
You probably know that too much exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause sunburn and skin cancer. But did you know UV rays can also harm your eyes? Extended exposure to the sun’s UV rays has been linked to significant eye problems, including cataracts, macular degeneration, pterygia and photokeratitis. As you rub sunscreen on to protect your skin this summer, don’t forget to protect your eyes as well.
Be Aware of UV Rays
People can measure how intense the UV rays are on any given day by looking at the UV Index, provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The higher the number, the more extreme the risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure.
Forgot to check the site before heading out into the sun? The EPA also illustrates an easy way to tell how much UV exposure you are getting by looking at your shadow. As a general rule, the site reports:
- If your shadow is taller than you are (in the early morning and late afternoon), your UV exposure is likely to be lower.
- If your shadow is shorter than you are (around midday), you are being exposed to higher levels of UV radiation. Seek shade and protect your skin and eyes.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology offers these tips to protect your eyes from the sun:
- Don’t focus on color or darkness of sunglass lenses: Select sunglasses that block UV rays. Don’t be deceived by color or cost. The ability to block UV light is not dependent on the price tag or how dark the sunglass lenses are.
- Check for 100 percent UV protection: Make sure your sunglasses block 100 percent of UV-A rays and UV-B rays.
- Choose wrap-around styles: Ideally, your sunglasses should wrap all the way around to your temples, so the sun’s rays can’t enter from the side.
- Wear a hat: In addition to your sunglasses, wear a broad-brimmed hat to protect your eyes.
- Don’t rely on contact lenses: Even if you wear contact lenses with UV protection, remember your sunglasses.
- Don’t be fooled by clouds: The sun’s rays can pass through haze and thin clouds. Most importantly, remember that sun damage to eyes can occur anytime during the year, not just in the summertime.
- Protect your eyes during peak sun times: Sunglasses should be worn whenever outside, and it’s especially important to wear sunglasses in the early afternoon and at higher altitudes, where UV light is more intense.
- Never look directly at the sun. Looking directly at the sun at any time, including during an eclipse, can lead to solar retinopathy, damage to the eye’s retina from solar radiation.
- Finally, Don’t forget the kids! Everyone is at risk, including children. Protect their eyes with hats and sunglasses. Above all, try to keep children out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s UV rays are the strongest.
In conclusion, take steps to protect your eyes and the vision health of your loved ones by knowing the facts, knowing the risks, and taking action! Schedule an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam before it is too late!